By SHAQ DAVIS
Manuel “Manny” Amado was studying to become a priest until his uncle introduced him to law enforcement.
Amado changed careers, and has worked for 25 years in law enforcement. He joined Pima Community College’s Department of Public Safety in 1996.
“The 17 years that I’ve been here at Pima have been the most productive, because this truly is a good fit for me: serving the students, serving the staff, community policing and reaching out to our constituency,” he said.
“Law enforcement has always been more than writing a ticket, making an arrest, or getting stats,” he added. “It’s about doing a service to the community.”
Amado was named PCC’s acting police chief in June after long-time chief Stella Bay retired.
His promotion to the department’s top job follows a rapid career climb. In 2004, Amado jumped from lead officer to commander, which is the department’s No. 2 position.
As acting chief, his position is not yet permanent, but his objective is clear.
“For as long as I have the privilege of holding this title, I will make whatever difference that I can,” he said.
During his years at Pima, “the institution as a whole has been more progressive, ” Amado said. He believes the police department had become more community focused, and more attentive to students.
“When you come to Pima, you’re our responsibility,” he said. “Your safety is our responsibility.”
Implementing emergency notification systems was a major step, he said, and more improvements are under way.
As part of the new security plans, the police department plans to hire five employees this year and five the next year.
Potential employees must be the right fit, Amado said. “I will not settle for just a body, I will not settle for just another police officer.”
He expressed deep confidence in his current team, which included 38 full-time and 22 part-time employees.
“They are some of the best I have ever worked with,” Amado said. “I am proud of my department.”
Support Specialist Irene Sherlund said she hopes Amado will be hired as chief on a permanent basis.
“He is a good listener and it has been a smooth transition,” she said.
During his years at PCC, Amado developed a Campus Watch program and taught emergency preparedness and workplace safety.
He recently received a master’s degree in education/human relations from Northern Arizona University, and has begun work on a doctorate in organizational psychology.
Before joining PCC, he worked at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and at the South Tucson Police Department.
He clearly recalls one of his most memorable experiences in law enforcement.
At 3 a.m., he drove into a dark alley and saw a beat up but fairly new Mustang. When he ran a license plate check, the tag came back as stolen.
After multiple tries, the department finally contacted the car’s owner. She had gone to bed, unaware that her car was stolen.
The owner was in tears when she arrived to claim her car, saying, “this is my livelihood.” Her young son showed his appreciation by hugging Amado’s leg.
Amado told the grateful woman that “it’s what we do,” but says the incident showed him that he was made for law enforcement.
Seeing people happy and appreciative provides needed fuel even when he’s tired, he said. “That’s what keeps police officers going.”